16:54 PM

Sign of the Times: Tough Economy Shows in Dental Visits

Dr. Doyle Williams, Chief Dental Officer, DentaQuest

A public opinion survey* by Oral Health America confirmed a trend that I’ve been hearing about lately as I talk to dentists across the United States.

The survey revealed that one-third (35 percent) of people who regularly visit the dentist are going less frequently. One-half (47 percent) of larger households and households with children reduced their visits to the dentist in the past year. Families with younger children cut back more than households with slightly older children.

Regrettably, preventive dental care appears to be something that is falling through the cracks, when families are faced with managing competing needs in a challenging economy.

And that concerns me.

Dental care is the #1 unmet health care need for children and low-income adults. Cavities and gum disease are preventable. Regular dental visits are investments in long term good health. With regular visits, it is more likely that problems can be found early when dentists can help teeth “heal” without any drilling. Your oral health caregiver can show you how to protect yourself and your children from getting cavities and gum disease by helping you understand your risk factors and protective factors. You may also be told about preventive treatments, like sealants, a thin protective coating painted on the molars of the teeth of children and adolescents, to protect against cavities.

Cavities and gum disease are bacterial infections. Studies show links between gum disease and premature births, diabetes, respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disease. I was recently very saddened to read about the young father in Ohio who died from an infection that started in a wisdom tooth and spread to his brain.

Not going to the dentist means you don’t get early warning of problems or important preventive education and information to keep you from needing costly treatments later.

*Oral Health America public opinion survey sponsored by Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait and Plackers